We’re about two months away from the arrival of Marvel’s debut Netflix series ‘Daredevil’ - and our first brief look at the show would seem to confirm that this series, and in all likelihood the four Marvel Netflix shows lined up to follow it, will have a somewhat different tone than we’re accustomed to from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Quite apart from being a good old-fashioned tease, denying us a look at DD’s signature red costume (which we’re assured will eventually appear) and giving only a momentary glimpse of Vincent D’Onofrio as iconic villain The Kingpin, the main thing we take from this trailer is that it’s cold, harsh, and notably quite bloody - not qualities we tend to associate with Marvel movies.
As much as the flawed 2003 ‘Daredevil’ movie with Ben Affleck was that little bit grimmer and more violent than most superhero fare of the time, this new take with Charlie Cox suggests something altogether grittier, almost with a sense of fly-on-the-wall realism - the presence of super-powered individuals seeming to be almost an afterthought.
Still, it has long since been confirmed that ‘Marvel’s Daredevil,’ along with ‘AKA Jessica Jones,’ ‘Luke Cage,’ ‘Iron Fist’ and the eventual crossover mini-series ‘The Defenders,’ do indeed take place within the same universe as the Marvel movies - meaning the New York that Matt Murdock wants to protect is the very same city that was invaded by the Chitauri in 2012.
The question is - will viewers recognise it as such? And how closely related will this new Marvel TV world be to that of the broader MCU (TV’s ‘Agents of SHIELD’ and ‘Agent Carter’ included)?
Comic readers will no doubt concur straight away that a darker, harder-edged approach was always appropriate for ‘Daredevil.’ Though created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett back in 1964, it’s generally agreed that the character didn’t really come into his own until Frank Miller came on board in the late 1970s, initially as an artist and ultimately as writer too. Miller refashioned the character as a troubled anti-hero struggling as much with his own demons as the criminals on the streets.
Whilst the Affleck movie attempted to capture that Miller-era vibe (whilst bungling some key Miller storylines), it too frequently lapsed into high camp - something which, if the trailer is anything to go by, is in no danger of happening again on the Netflix show. Indeed, this trailer is enough to make the recent, divisive trailer for 20th Century Fox’s ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot seem quite upbeat and cheerful. The key difference, of course, is that ‘Daredevil’ was known for being a downbeat character in the first place.
And ‘downbeat’ does appear to be the way things are headed for the MCU. We’re promised a much grimmer time for our big-screen heroes in the upcoming ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ paving the way for a face-off between Captain America and Iron Man in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in 2016. And, while the events of these films might not necessarily impact the Netflix shows too directly, we can surely expect their influence to be felt.
There have long been murmurs of discontent among some older Marvel fans who would like to see certain characters handled in a more mature fashion, as opposed to the largely family-friendly tone and content of all the MCU movies to date. There does seem cause to suspect that Fox’s ‘Deadpool’ may be the first contemporary superhero film to aim higher than the 12A rating - but for Marvel Studios themselves, will Netflix be the domain in which they scratch that particular itch?
All signs thus far would seem to suggest this will be the case - and it might go some way to explaining why Marvel went to Netflix with these shows, as opposed to ABC which houses ‘Agents of SHIELD’ and ‘Agent Carter.’ US network TV is subject to fairly strict rules which Netflix, as a subscriber service, is not hemmed in by - and such original shows as ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘Hemlock Grove’ confirm that Netflix has no aversion to mature content.
Okay, so I doubt many of us are anticipating that the Marvel Netflix shows will wind up a hotbed of profanity, sex and graphic bloodletting to rival ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘True Blood’ - but even so, there’s still nothing about the ‘Daredevil’ trailer which would suggest that it’s for kids. And one need only take a cursory glance at the other characters set to follow DD - notably Jessica Jones, whose initial comic book ‘Alias’ was published under the mature readers imprint Marvel Max - to see that these shows are gearing toward older viewers.
There has also been heavy speculation as to whether somewhere down the line other more mature Marvel characters such as The Punisher, Blade and Ghost Rider (all of whom the studio have long since regained the screen rights to) might join this small screen universe - and it’s unthinkable that Marvel will not have at least contemplated this.
It seems highly unlikely that the Marvel Studios movies themselves will stretch beyond the confines of the 12A - and honestly, looking at the titles they have lined up for the next five years, there are none that would seem to necessitate a higher rating. The movies have started on an all-ages path, and would appear intent to staying this course - and it seems entirely fair that they should do so.
Marvel’s Netflix shows, however, may be another matter: and if ‘Daredevil’ does for the small screen what ‘Iron Man’ did for the big screen, this could be the start of something special for older Marvel fans.
'Marvel's Daredevil' premieres on Netflix on 10 April 2015. (And, in case you needed reminding what the 2003 movie was like by comparison, see the video below.)
Picture Credit: Marvel/Netflix